Ten Hag backed for controversial team selection against Man City amid fears Man Utd will be ‘ripped to shreds’
Paul Merson thinks Erik ten Hag will drop one of his expensive recruits for the Manchester derby, and explained who could play instead to help Man Utd stifle Man City.
Following a dismal start to the campaign, Manchester United have turned things around. They’ve won four on the spin in the league – a run of form that has propelled them up to fifth and above Liverpool and Chelsea in the table.
However, whether they’ve truly turned the corner or not will become clear on Sunday.
United travel to the Etihad to face the undefeated and free-scoring Man City.
Erling Haaland is doing exactly what he was brought in to do, bagging 11 goals in his first seven league matches.
Man Utd too have found immediate joy from their summer recruits. Christian Eriksen has been lauded by Paul Scholes for the way he is pulling the strings in the middle.
Lisandro Martinez has quickly displaced Harry Maguire and is forming a fine partnership with Raphael Varane. £82m man Antony too started brightly, scoring on debut in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
However, according to Paul Merson, Antony may find himself rooted to the bench on Sunday.
Merson believes stifling Joao Cancelo from left-back will be on Ten Hag’s mind. For all his talent and ability going forward, doubts remain as to Antony’s nous and willingness to do a job going the other way.
Instead, Merson reckons Ten Hag could spring a surprise and start Anthony Elanga on the right wing.
Onus on Eriksen and Fernandes – Merson
“Manchester United have got the players to hurt Manchester City,” Merson wrote for Sportskeeda.
“We’ve seen a lot of times that it’s one way or the other for United – they’ll either get a result, or they’ll get ripped to shreds.
“The longer they stay in this game, the more they’ll get involved and create chances.
“There will be gaps in City’s defence, and the likes of Eriksen and Fernandes will need to find that perfect pass.”
On the subject of team selection, Merson reckons Ronaldo will find himself on the bench once again. The ex-Arsenal favourite also thinks Ten Hag could oust Antony to help stifle Cancelo.
“Cristiano Ronaldo will find himself on the bench yet again this weekend,” continued Merson.
“If United have to win this game, they have to play with pace on the counter. Ronaldo struggled for Portugal the other day, and he isn’t going to start this game.
“Tyrell Malacia hasn’t done much wrong in the Premier League so far. Erik ten Hag knows him, and he’s probably going to start against Man City.
“Man United have been harder to score against in their last four games and will probably stick to the same defence.
“It’s going to be a hard game for Man United’s front line. I’m not sure if Ten Hag will play Antony from the start – there will be a lot of tracking back with Joao Cancelo bombing forward.
“Manchester City will look to create overloads in the final third, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Elanga plays just to track Cancelo.”
Can Man Utd emerge victorious on Sunday?
The favourites are undoubtedly Pep Guardiola’s side. Even if the fixture weren’t being played at the Etihad, Man City would still be favoured.
However, Man Utd have posed problems for Guardiola in recent times, winning three times in the last six league meetings.
John Stones could miss out with a hamstring injury, while Aymeric Laporte still lacks match fitness. That could result in new signing Manuel Akanji starting alongside Ruben Dias and Akanji will be targeted if so.
Haaland versus Martinez will be a must-see affair, especially in the air. Haaland’s height advantage is clear, meaning United must be extra vigilant when Kevin de Bruyne is on the ball.
Merson predicted City will emerge victorious via a 3-1 scoreline on Sunday. Our prediction is United will pose problems, specifically on the break, but will ultimately succumb to a 2-1 loss.